As if the war and the blockade weren’t enough to make life difficult in Gaza… For Palestinian rapper Ayman Mghames, survival is a constant struggle. However, neither the lack of means, nor the way in which conservative society stigmatizes a musical genre imported from the West, nor the patient search for an audience has not undermined the determination of this young singer with an atypical career. For this artist, rap constitutes a “peaceful resistance” to the Israeli occupation, to war, to oppression.
Ayman Mghames was born in the Palestinian refugee camp of Badaoui, near Tripoli, in North Lebanon, in 1985. He was forced to leave the country to settle in Tunisia with his father, Jamali, who was part of the close guard of Yasser Arafat. However, he spent his summer holidays with his grandparents, uncles and aunts in Lebanon, in the Badaoui and Nahr al-Bared camps.
His childhood memories are marked by a heavy feeling of financial, psychological and social insecurity and instability due to his refugee status. “I was traumatized by the gaze of people, especially Arabs. I heard them say, “He’s a Palestinian refugee. He doesn’t have a country, he doesn’t… He doesn’t…” All of this remained etched in my little child’s head and I tried as much as possible to find answers to my questions caused by this form of discrimination against me,” he recalls.
The period during which he lived in Lebanon and Tunisia is complicated for the young Ayman: “My life in these two countries consisted of a permanent and very difficult inner struggle. Lebanon and Tunisia welcomed me at a time when I was weak. When people ask me today where I come from, I answer: “I was born in Lebanon, I was educated in Tunisia and I live in Palestine.” I consider these three countries as my own.”
It was still because of his father’s work that the family decided to settle in Gaza in 1996. “It was the first time in my life that I saw an Israeli soldier, and that’s also where I understood that we were still under occupation,” recalls Ayman.
“When I arrived in Gaza, I was invaded by a sort of indescribable trance. But, at the same time, I was shocked by the presence of Israeli soldiers at the crossing point. A thousand questions came to me: “We are not in Palestine? Why are these soldiers here?”
He thought he was going back to Palestine, the most beautiful country in the world, as his parents and grandparents told him, and he finds himself in territory controlled by the Israelis.
But his biggest disappointment came from some Gazans. There is a form of culture of discrimination latent in Gazan society that distinguishes between residents and refugees. “For example, even today, a marriage between these two social groups is very frowned upon,” explains the singer.
From dream to disillusion
Ayman Mghames believed in the fairy tale: “I believed that when I went back to my homeland, my country, I would finally find that inner peace that I had been looking for for a long time.” Reality erased all his dreams; or rather, they turned into illusions.
First, he found himself stuck in a society with backward and conservative ideas. Then he witnessed an endless cycle of violence. He thus lived through the second intifada from the year 2000, then, in 2007, the inter-Palestinian conflict during which Hamas overthrew Fatah in Gaza, causing hundreds of deaths. Then comes the endless spiral of wars between Israel and the Islamist movement which has taken de facto power in the coastal strip. It was during the first armed conflict, in 2008-2009, that his father was killed. He was the target of an Israeli attack while he was in his apartment, located on the 7th floor of the Al-Makoussi towers, northeast of Gaza City.
Ayman also lived through the wars of 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022. Installed in these same towers, his apartment shakes with each explosion when missiles hit the city. He is now married and the father of Joury, a 9-year-old girl, and Jamel, a 5-year-old boy. The sound of the explosions traumatizes her children.
“From one war to another, we live daily under the threat of assassination; drones are watching us all the time,” says Ayman. “From a refugee who, at least, could travel, I became a Palestinian detained in a big prison,” he laments.
Many of his friends and acquaintances have left Gaza to live in Europe, “in order to spare themselves this life of humiliation”, he adds. “But I also know what it means to be a refugee, and that’s why I decided to stay here.”
Express yourself through rap
Ayman’s songs are like his life. “I can’t write romantic songs. I lived in adversity and sorrow. My environment is full of poverty, bombardments, blood, martyrs and deaths. He is well aware that the public likes love songs, but says he is incapable of writing any. For him, it’s about conveying his feelings. Anything else would be artificial and unlike him. It is therefore through rap that he decided to express himself. “My songs express a palpable reality. And rap gives me the opportunity to transmit my experience.
This is why his songs speak in particular of the Israeli occupation, of the Palestinian cause, of the blood of the martyrs, of the pain of the prisoners detained in the jails of the Hebrew State. Rap is for Ayman a way to “peacefully resist the Israeli occupation” while waiting for peace and freedom.
“I cannot move without authorization from the occupier, I can only receive goods if the occupier agrees to open the borders; I only have access to electricity if the occupant wishes it. The Israelis control every detail of my existence.” For some time now, he has changed register and his songs also evoke social realities that have also become increasingly burdensome.
Despite the wars, the violence, the blockade, Ayman Mghames managed to organize concerts in Gaza with his group of rappers, which has the name “PR” (“Palestinian Rappers“). His identity and his music are now known far beyond the borders of the Palestinian enclave. He thus participated in several documentaries and performed at international festivals in Tunisia, Egypt, France, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. At each of these events, he represents Palestine with pride.
However, his art does not allow him to live in a decent way. To make ends meet, he created DeliaArts, a structure which includes a studio equipped with all the equipment necessary for recording and which makes it possible to meet the needs of Gazan artists. Against all odds, he always has faith in the future…
We would like to give thanks to the author of this short article for this outstanding content
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